The cybersecurity giant from Prague is Avast, that perhaps gained popularity for its free antivirus offering. They claim a really large 435 million active user base, and to be the top vendor in consumer security. In 2016, it acquired its reval AVG, and Avast products now provide the best of both programs by combining their strengths.
Avast Pro Antivirus is a powerful antivirus solution, and has plenty of additional features for security. These include virus protection, URL filtering, a password manager, browser add-on analyzer, wireless network scanning, software update management for missing patches, and a secure browser to secure online banking and shopping activities.
The real problem here is not with Avast Pro, but that, it competes with the company’s free offering, and Avast Free, has many of these same features. At least one benefit to Avast Pro is Real Site, which provides a secure DNS system that protects from DNS hijacks and prevents you from being hijacked by copycat sites. There is also a sandbox to provide a secure environment when using questionable programs, a nice feature for users incessantly using the latest freeware out there.
Avast Pro Antivirus: Price
Another downside comes into play with the higher price, a lofty $49.99 (£39) cost to cover the one-computer, one-year license. We can compare that to Kaspersky Antivirus which is better rated malware protection, and comes in at only $29.99 (£24) for a year of initial coverage, and furthermore can be used on up to 3 devices.
There is the option for some savings, as the cost does does drop with additional years and more computers. A three-PC, one-year license costs $59.99 (£47), for instance. There is also the option to supersize the subscription to a five-PC, three-year license for only $234.99 (£185), or $15.66 (£12) per device year. While this is an improvement in the pricing, also be aware that some other vendors take the discount even further; Kapersky Antivirus offers a five-PC, two-year license at $79.99 (£63), or a bargain $7.99 (£6) for each device per year.
Avast Pro Antivirus: Set up and installation
While some antivirus vendors have the requirement of providing your email address to use their software, Avast streamlines the process. In fact, we were able to download and install a 30-day trial build of Avast Pro Antivirus, without providing any information at all- a plan we very much prefer.
The Avast Pro Antivirus package gives plenty of options for experienced users to control this program. The Customize button allows the user to choose which of 16 modules for installation. This is useful for situations when you don’t want the browser extensions, already use another password manager, or perhaps you’re concerned that specific modules will cause a conflict with existing software, so just unclick the relevant checkboxes so they won’t be installed.
Setup is certainly a speedy and straightforward affair. In addition to Avast Pro Antivirus, the setup program includes the Avast Online Security extensions for the popular Chrome and Firefox browsers, and we enabled the extensions via a prompt on the next browser launch.
As the process concludes, there's a bit of an unusual privacy related issue. Analogous to other products, Avast Pro Antivirus does collect and transmit non-personal information about its use. However, the company doesn't force anyone into this plan, and neither hope you go along and are oblivious to it. A message gives a disclosure about is collected and why, and also importantly- how to disable this feature.
Some other Avast products from the stable get pushed by the installation process before it shuts down. A request does get made for providing your email address to get a download link to Avast’s free Android apps, for instance. Another query happens so you can recommend Avast to your friends and family, with an opportunity for a free license if they become paying customers. We passed on both of these, and then the program fires up, and then it is up and running as Avast does not even prompt for a reboot.
In the Avast program folders, we find a file size of just under a Gigabyte, larger than most of the competition. While not really a surprise as Avast has tons of features needing support, and this is not reflected in the software’s general resource requirements. With our test system, Avast Pro Antivirus needed five additional background processes, of which two were doing something significant, and all five utilized under 75 MB’s of RAM.
Avast Pro Antivirus: Features
Avast Pro Antivirus has a near identical interface to the free version, and their other commercial products. The opening screen displays your security status, with a Smart Scan button for to check on your PC. There is also a left-hand sidebar for controlling the other functions which gets divided into clear categories: Protection, Privacy, and Performance.
IStart with the Smart Scan to get things rolling. It is plenty complete, as it scans for viruses, patches missing software updates, bad browser plug-ins, network security weaknesses, vulnerable passwords, performance detriments and even more.
Overall, much of this performs to expectations. The virus scan is efficient and located our malware samples with ease. The network check-up performs satisfactory as well, and identified some low-level, yet critical issues on our network, including a router with open ports to the internet. The software updater determined that our versions of CCleaner, Firefox and WinZip were out of date, and facilitated an update of them.
It’s too bad that not all the features were as good as the ones above. For example, Avast’s suggestion that we delete the Private Internet Access add-on secondary to its 'bad reputation' is a miss in our book. PIA is a VPN provider with a strong reputation, and this extension garners a high 4.1 rating on the Firefox Add-ons page. For an antivirus product to advocate for deleting a browser extension, we would have liked to see more supporting information to support that recommendation, or really, any real evidence at all.
There’s also a problem with the Performance Issues page. All the usual items are here that you expect from a PC cleanup tool – junk files, registry items that are leftover, programs slowing down your computer, however we are concerned that to do anything with them, it requires additional payment, and a separate software install, Avast Cleanup Premium (at least a free 60-day trial is offered).
The upselling continues as Smart Scan concludes, with the package selling an internet privacy check, and then predictably recommends a sign up for Avast's SecureLine VPN.
We appreciate that the Settings dialog offers options to customize the Smart Scan to check things as you specify. Our choice was to disable the Performance Issues and Browser Add-ons options, the incessant pointless alerts stopped, and the time for the scan to complete was cut in half.
There are also options beyond the Smart Scan, and on the Scans panel these include running a quick or full system scan, checking specific files or folders, or boot-time scan scheduling. Files, folders and drives are opened directly through the File Explorer right-click menu.
There is also the option for specifying your own custom scans. Say you have a need to run an in-depth scan on just Office documents in a specific folder. This can be easily configured and saved in a few moments. Subsequently, it can be run as needed, or scheduled for running automatically, even when unmonitored.
A separate Rescue Disk feature also sets up a separate bootable environment for working on a seriously infected system. Avast has the option for loading this on a USB drive, or to save it as an ISO image that can be burned on a CD or DVD.
Network-related tools are also included such as the Wi-Fi Inspector, that can scan your current network, list all your connected devices, and then offer solutions as issues are identified, ie: to shut open ports, updating a vulnerable password to a more secure one, etc. It's a unique extra for an antivirus extra which, we'd encourage you to utilize.
Following the networking theme is Real Site, which was previously known as Secure DNS, which configures your system for using Avast's secure encrypted DNS system. This tool can prevent attackers from intercepting your DNS traffic, and keeps you safe from becoming the victim of a phishing attack via a fake website made.
Another feature is the Sandbox, that runs files that can be questionable in a secure virtual space, to keep your PC safe. Most users will be better off not dealing with these types of files at all, but this is a great utility for power users that may need to deal with potentially infected files.
A basic password manager is included that uses Chrome and Firefox add-ons to automatically collects new passwords as inputted, then syncs them across your multiple devices, and can then later fill in these credentials as needed. It hardly will match the functionality of top software picks in the category like Dashlane, but it is more than decent as an included extra.
Unfortunately, some of these “Features” are truly Avast working on another upsell. A SecureLine VPN icon holds some promise when we first look at it, but then we figured out that it was really a premium feature. At least there is a 60-day trial, more than generous for a VPN, but thereafter beyond that there is an additional monthly cost, true to most VPN’s.
However, they are not all upsells, though, and we did encounter some features that we liked. The newly added Avast's Do Not Disturb mode can add any applications to the Do Not Disturb list, and with these apps running full-screen, Avast stops all the pesky notifications from itself, Windows and any other apps. We think this is a definite step up from the Game Mode that some other security apps use, and a big plus to this package.
A final highlight of Avast Pro is the high amount of configurability it enables. Literally complete control awaits, with just about every part of this program encouraging tweaking, customizing and tuning to your actual requirements. There’s really something for just about everybody here, from troubleshooting problems, conflict minimization, or just improving operations.
Avast Pro Antivirus: Protection
AV-Comparatives' Real-World Protection Test ranks 18 top antivirus engines at how they perform, when tested versus the latest malware in the wild. The August 2018 report conveys that Avast has a high 99.5% protection rate, but also be aware that other packages achieve an even higher 100% protection, which disappointingly puts Avast down in 12th place.
For confirmation, we additionally looked at the February-June 2018 report, which summarizes five tests. On their testing, Avast scored 9th place, once again with a high protection rate that hit 99.4%, packed together some other top competitors (Symantec in 7th place at 99.5%, McAfee in 6th at 99.6%, and Avira in 5th at 99.7%).
AV-Test's July-August 2018 Windows Business test produced mildly improved results for Avast, with a total 100% protection rate in August, and very high 99.55% for July. AV-Test also indicates that the industry average is 100%, however Avast scores a high 6 our of 6 for protection, and gets designated as a Top Product award on that testing.
We cannot match the resources of these independent lab tests during our single review, however we endeavored to examine Avast Pro Antivirus further on a small test of our own design.
We utilized a very basic ransomware simulator that is homebrew, built for going through a folder tree, seeking out and encrypting several common file types. This threat is not available to the public, so Avast has not encountered it previously. Using this type of ransomware can answer the question of whether Avast is able to find malware via behavior alone, and also how quickly it can neutralize a threat, as the slower Avast responds, the larger number of files that are at risk to be encrypted.
We also disabled our internet connection to make sure there was not any interference, fired up the ransomware simulator, and patiently held vigil for an alert. Unfortunately, our hopes got dashed, as the simulated ransomware did its job, without any hindrance, and encrypted thousands of files in the test folder tree it was designed to target.
Antivirus software from competitors has definitely done better on this same test. Bitdefender and Kaspersky antivirus both could detect and shut down the ransomware within seconds of it starting, also recovering the few encrypted files, resulting in no data loss.
Still, the simulated ransomware test results should be placed into context. We give credit to products that neutralize our ransomware, however, failing to provide an alert perhaps is not indicative of a larger problem. After all, our simulated ransomware is not actually real malware, but we cannot explain why it was not found or neutralized.
In conclusion, the independent testing labs we looked conclude that Avast finds and neutralizes a high percentage of real-world threats. This includes even yet to be found samples, including from their behavior alone, and we consider these results as more important.
Avast Pro Antivirus: Verdict
Avast Pro Antivirus has plenty of additional features that will be of interest to a wide variety of users. On the other hand, many of these best parts are already available in Avast Free. Only for users that require the sandbox or secure DNS elements, we would go with the free edition instead.
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